When I was a kid, I was usually out playing in the woods. No matter the season, no matter the day. Most times, I was with my friends. We’d climb trees year-round, sled down steep and winding hills in the winter, collect giant leaves in the fall, pick blueberries in the summer, and explore the paths out to the fields where the red clay dirt would stick to the bottoms of our shoes and make us leave dirty prints on the carpet inside the house, giving away to our parents that we’d gone too far from home. Sometimes, I would take my dog with me. Other times, I’d walk the trails alone.
I enjoyed being alone, even as a child. The woods were just across from my house and led to the middle of nowhere or to the street right next to ours…depending on where I wanted to go. I’d have a paperback book with me, usually a Judy Blume or a Sweet Valley High, and a spot in mind where I would sit beside a tree and read. I was a serious kid who thought too hard about serious things. Sadly, that never changed as I grew into an adult. So with nothing to disturb me but the sound of the wind in the tree tops, birds overhead, or the scampering of squirrels’ feet across the forest floor, I would finally succumb to the silence all around me that I felt my 12-year old self so desperately needed.
Today was one of those days when I needed to be in the woods. I decided to visit the Timucuan Ecological Preserve and Fort Caroline National Park since the weather would be near-perfect. I’m usually so engrossed in the history of a national landmark, but today led me to the nature trails on the Preserve. The struggles of the French, the British, the Spanish, and the Timucuan Indians just couldn’t hold my interest today. What I craved was the smell of moss, dirt, the earth beneath felled trees. My body, powered by muscles usually aching from the daily stress of worry and anxiety, wanted to walk. And walk. And walk some more.
So walk I did.
I spent nearly two hours out there, just walking the grounds and looking for Cinnamon Ferns and inhaling the air. It was nice. There were very few people around. Oh, sure. I could hear them, but just barely, and I didn’t see them. They were doing their thing and I was doing mine. And the sounds of the woods kept the other people’s voices from getting too close to me.
And that’s really what I needed – to have all the voices, including my own, turned down.
(Photos: 1 – American Beech & Loblolly Pines. 2 – Yaupon Holly (tree & berries).
3 – Live Oak trees covered in Spanish moss. 4 – groundcover of clovers. 5 – canopy of Live Oak trees. 6 – Florida Beauty Berries. 7 – Resurrection Ferns. 8 – just an adorable little mushroom.)